I've just finished Emile Zola's The Masterpiece - a fascinating glimpse into the Paris of the Impressionist movement and a poignant study of artistic genius and merit.
My winter obsession with thrillers is finally abating, but there is one book that I cannot stop thinking about with a fresh rush of pleasure, excitement and adrenaline: Lionel Davidson's Kolymsky Heights.
Nursing another woman's child used to be an respected and common form of employment in Britain. What happened?
After the festivities and the feasting, my mind turns to the tokens that mothers left to identify their babies at the Foundling Hospital in the 18th century. These pathetic scraps of hope are probably the most poignant objects I've ever seen.
We live in an abundantly voyeuristic period, where we can find anything that arouses us online. Yet, the 18th century artist, Thomas Rowlandson, illustrates that voyeurism isn't a modern phenomenon. Perhaps it's human nature.
From late November, it's impossible to go anywhere in London without coming across a grotto. Some are for the whole family, some are made of cardboard and wrapping paper, some are Victorian-themed, but they all house a man in red with a long, white beard. Is he the 21st century oracle?
It seems that the once popular and refined pastime of inhaling finally ground tobacco through the nostril is now an alternative, fringe activity. I found a couple of biker websites where the chat turned to where in London good snuff could be bought.